CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - The Sounders FC finished the second leg of training camp with as positive an outcome as they could have hoped for Thursday morning.
Seattle squared off with their Cascadia rivals to the north, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, in a training game Thursday to cap off a tough nine days of training at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona.
After falling behind 2-0 midway through the first half, the Sounders exploded for three second half goals, two of which came off the foot of Sanna Nyassi, and finished with a 3-2 win to return to Seattle with victorious smiles on their faces.
“I thought we made a couple of defensive mistakes in the first half that gave them goals. I thought we were unlucky at the other end of the field a couple of times, Estrada and so forth trying to get in and bad final passes,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “But then I think in the second half we showed a lot of character. The guys came out, we made them aware of they were playing high. Balls over the top were on. Sanna’s speed made a difference. It always feels good to win games even if they’re training games.”
The Sounders dominated possession over the game’s first 20 minutes, but could not generate any shots out of it. Their first shot, in fact, didn’t come until Tyrone Marshall unleashed a shot from distance in the 43rd minute. Several other opportunities were thwarted by Vancouver’s veteran backline and goalkeeper Jay Nolly before a shot could be taken.
On the other end, Marshall kept the Whitecaps from threatening almost single-handedly, knocking balls away on possession after possession. But a defensive breakdown found Marlon Jame alone in front of an open corner of the net to knock in a rebound and give the Whitecaps a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
Then in the 39th minute, Ansu Toure ripped a shot from the left side of the box and the Sounders found themselves trailing 2-0.
The second half saw the Sounders go with a lineup of fresh legs and they exploded into an instant offensive outburst.
After already threatening to breach the net in the first four minutes of the second half, the Sounders earned a corner kick in the 49th minute. Midfielder Josh Gardner swung the ball in from the right corner and Neagle crashed into the box for a header that found the net for the Sounders first goal.
Before the whistle had cleared from the ears of the crowd that went well over 100 by the time the game got underway, the Sounders were on the board again.
This time, Nyassi broke away up the right channel and went one-on-one with Nolly, getting just enough on a shot to knock it past the keeper and into the net to even the score at 2-2.
Playing in control of possession most of the rest of the way, the Sounders broke through again as the clock wound down.
In a great individual effort, Nathan Sturgis weaved his way through the Vancouver defense on the left side before finding Nyassi in the middle with enough space to blast the ball with a clear path to the goal and a 3-2 lead.
“Sometimes with Sanna playing up top is easier for him because it gives him a lot more tactical freedom to run around and do his thing. From that standpoint he was free today to do that and because of the way they played really gave him a chance to expose his speed,” Schmid said. “With a little bit more he could’ve probably had four today, four or five. But he came up with a big goal with his second goal. It was also a great play by Nate Sturgis.”
The Sounders had a bit of a scare early in the second half when Taylor Graham hit the grass holding his hamstring. Plagued with foot injuries the entire 2009 season, Graham had been a highlight of Casa Grande throughout the nine-day leg of training camp. Fortunately though, he was taken off for precautionary measures and his injury did not appear serious enough that it will cause him to miss a significant portion of training camp.
The Sounders rested several key starters like Kasey Keller, Freddie Ljungberg and Fredy Montero and had a good enough stretch of training sessions to leave Arizona with confidence as they transition into the competition leg of training camp in La Manga, Spain, beginning on Tuesday.
“Anytime you win games, it always helps the team and helps the spirit of the squad. We got a lot of good fitness work in. The guys are looking forward to three days off and getting away from each other for a little bit, and we go into the game phase now in La Manga,” Schmid said. “I think we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish here. We were able to see some trialists as well. We were able to get them into good game situations and I think we can make some decisions for guys who’ve had the opportunity to show.”
The Sounders return to Seattle later this evening and will take three days off before departing for La Manga on Monday. They will train their on Tuesday before facing Norwegian side Rosenborg BK on Thursday in the first of three games scheduled while the Sounders are in Spain for the La Manga Cup II.
Additionally, the Sounders will face the Whitecaps again March 6 at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, BC. The pre-season match is scheduled for a 4 pm kickoff. All tickets for the match will cost $15, plus applicable service charges and will be available on Wednesday, February 17, at 10 a.m. online at ticketmaster.ca or by calling 604.280.4400.
And on March 12 the Sounders will host the Portland Timbers at Qwest Field in their first Community Shield match. Already over 5,000 tickets have been sold in the first 24 hours of availability. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth (6-17). Children under the age of six are free. Tickets will be available at www.SoundersFC.com, by calling 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets and the Qwest Field Box office. Proceeds from the match will benefit the team’s four community partners: Boys and Girls Club of Washington State, Save the Children, Seattle SCORES and Washington Youth Soccer.
Sounder FC first half starting lineup: Chris Eylander, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Tyrone Marshall, Eric Winblad, Gao Leilei, Peter Vagenas, Osvaldo Alonso, Jacob Lousky, Roger Levesque, David Estrada.
Sounders FC second half starters: Derby Carillo, Tyson Wahl, Jamel Wallace, Taylor Graham (Marshall, 52; Levesque, 86), Brad Evans, Josh Gardner, Nathan Sturgis, Stephen King, Lamar Neagle, Jarrod Smith, Sanna Nyassi.
Vancouver Whitecaps starting lineup: Jay Nolly (Dan Pelc, 75), Taka Hirano (Phillipe Davies, 75), Wes Charles (Nelson Akwari, 68), Greg Janicki (Zourab Tsiskaridze, 75), Chris Williams (Luca Bellisomo, 70), Ansu Toure, Martin Nash (Ethan Gage, 68), Ricardo Sanchez (Nazar Khalfan, 68), Justin Moose (Russell Tiebert, 75), Randy Edwini-Bonsu (Cornelius Stewart, 26), Marlon James (Alex Sements, 68).
Vancouver Whitecaps: James, 36; Toure, 39.
Seattle Sounders FC: Neagle (Gardner), 49; Nyassi, 50; Nyassi (Sturgis), 88.